The Texas Redwood lands on the Southside

By: Brad Trogdon

Last season, and as early as mid May, negative impact of not the Sox having not re-signed Jim Thome and his huge lefty bat became about as apparent as Charlie Sheen’s cocaine induced madness and his “fire-breathing fists”. Fairly glaring kids, no? By June, rumors swirled as to Kenny’s interest in the also huge lefty bat in Washington known as Adam Dunn. Christmas came early as Dunn agreed to hefty deal to join our Pale Hosers and bring a big lefty bat back to the Southside. When I had the pleasure to meet Adam at SoxFest, it was late in the evening, and given his NFL linebacker-esque stature my haggard, less than upright self almost asked the Texas Redwood if he could even hear me from up there?!?! All joking aside, he was more than gracious and friendly, and very wise not to allow himself to give any soundbites to us at PaleandHosed at that late hour. Stats and stature lends one to think he is very much a younger Thome, but Adam does have his own story.

Adam, a Houston native, stands at 6’6”, weighing a paltry 285. The previous allusion to his football player size is no coincidence; as Adam was a standout QB at New Caney High School in his native Texas, and was then recruited to Texas University. The Cincinnati Reds drafted him after High School as well, and allowed him to play minor league ball and return to Austin in August to play for the Longhorns. After a season of being redshirted then being asked to move to tight end, to facilitate the the QB spot for star recruit Chris Simms, Adam left the Longhorns in ’99 to go all baseball. In nearly four seasons across the Cincinnati farm system he recorded a .304 BA, with a .425 OBP, and a .950 OPS. On July 20th, 2001, Adam was called up to the Majors and made his mark in swift style by hitting 12 homers in August, a National League Rookie record.

Yet, his time with the then aged Reds was not entirely a happy one, often Dunn came under fire for lackadaisical fielding, hitting homers rather than driving in runs, even lacking energy and being overweight. Red’s announcer Marty Brennaman being a chief detractor, said, “I think he was overweight last year. He walks to his position. He walks off the field. You see no energy whatsoever and that disappoints the heck out of me.” He was traded to Arizona in the last third of the 2008 season, in the last year of his contract, for Dallas Buck and two other forgettable players. In Arizona, he posted the worst fielding pct. and highest errors for any left fielder in the NL that season. It should be noted that that across the Reds and DBacks he still posted 40 HR, 100 RBI. Not exactly an unproductive hitter. Not to also forget although he struck out 164 times in 651 appearances, he held the MLB highest percentage of walks, at 19.1%, displaying a plate patience that was lost on most, especially his critics in the press.

Those detractors also followed Adam to his new club in Washington. His move to 1st base was met with a choir of howls, to quote NBC’s Craig Calcaterra “I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Adam Dunn will be the worst defensive first baseman in baseball in 2010. He may challenge for the title of all-time worst.” Yet his combined fielding stats that year at the break put him better than Pujols, Texeria, Fielder and even Ryan Howard. Now that’s not to say he’s a Gold Glover at 1st; as that’d be akin to telling someone to just listen to the Sheenster; “only stay away from the crack, unless you can manage it socially.” No, depending on how the roster shapes up, I’d rather not even see Dunn at 1st in the Sunday lineup, Viciedo perhaps?
As to his purported lack of hustle, I can’t see that flying in many clubhouses, especially ours. Adam’s clubhouse reputation is solid, as proven by National’s GM Mike Rizzo not only telling Kenny Williams he would have to part with a lot to get him before the deadline last summer, but his vocal support for Dunn, saying “Dunn was the most misunderstood player I have heard about in recent memory,” Rizzo said. “The way he was misconstrued [in Cincinnati] was almost unbelievable. He plays banged up. He’d go out there 162 games if you’d let him. He’s the most consistent player in the game the last six years.” He may swing and miss like good old Sheenster at a drug screening; but now take into account he’s never hit in a lineup that afforded him even adequate protection as a hitter, also he sees a lot of pitches which is huge. Not to mention the parks he’s played in being about as hitter friendly as handing a guy a Styrofoam bat for a lead ball. Add it up and you’ve got a lot to be excited about when Adam takes the plate on the Southside. Welcome Adam, I forsee this being glorious. I was going to apologize for the Charlie Sheen fixation, but I can’t, legendary entertainer on a run for the ages. Just saying..

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